201 8th St Baraboo, WI
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The New Normal in the COVID-19 Lodging

Over the last week at the Ringling House Bed & Breakfast, we have gone from creating bookings and turning people away because we do not have any rooms available, to an empty house.   From one person running the Bed & Breakfast with some staff, to having my recently laid off partner at home helping.   So by empty, we mean we don’t have any guests in our guest rooms.

Therefore for us, there are no worries that we will catch the virus from traveling guests, but there is a lot of worry, that at some point we will not be able to pay our bills.    We also understand the fear of our guests that are calling to cancel their stay, either the event that they were coming for has been cancelled, that they no longer want to travel via public transport, and are self-quarantining,  afraid to leave their house – much less travel anywhere.  Their workplace may have closed, or have been laid off and have no income.   When calling to cancel a reservation, many of our customers have taken a refund in the form of a gift certificate, which helps us immensely.  Thank you to those that have chosen that option!

Needless to say, this pandemic has created a lot of fear.   Here at the Ringling House Bed & Breakfast we have decided that we need to change the way we do some things, some by choice, others by mandate.   We hope to get people coming back to Baraboo after this “quarantine” ends, because, people are people, and they are still going to be scared.   I guess we will characterize these changes  as the “New Normal”.

Fewer People in a Bed & Breakfast

First of all, a Bed & Breakfast is small. we only have 6 rooms, and could have a maximum of 12 people in the house at a time.   Much less than the standard hotel, and therefore, much less chance of catching the contagion.

Check in changes

We are asking guests to wear masks upon check in and around the common area’s of the house.   We are also asking guest to wait at the back door until we open it for them, to give us time to check in one guest, before bringing in another.

Food Changes

Our breakfast is typically served family style in our dining room at Henry Ringling’s dining room table.    Now, per the Wisconsin mandate #72, we now will be delivering breakfast to peoples rooms, serving on the front porch or dining room, with a staggered start time, and distancing everyone more than  6 feet apart.

In lieu of  the wine and cheese happy hour on the weekend, we will be bringing people a “mini bottle” of wine or champagne and/or a snack to their room.

Baraboo also has many restaurants that have curbside pick up now or dining inside/outside with social distancing in mind,  outside of the breakfast that is served here at the Bed & Breakfast.   You can pick up your dinner, and eat it in a mansion!  How’s that for the new normal?

Sanitation Additions

We are not only cleaning the rooms, but going through and sanitizing any surface that would frequently be touched like remotes, keys, faucets, light switches, chair arms, etc, in between each guest change.  We also have disinfecting wipes placed around the house for people to use before/after touching something.

We want to be sure that our guests are not only comfortable with our amenities, but with our sanitation methods when they are ready to travel again.  This will be the “New Normal” for us until the virus threat has significantly tapered off.

What’s to do?

The good thing about Baraboo are so many outdoor areas and parks to explore.  It’s easy to practice “social distancing” while enjoying the great outdoors.   Indoors, we also have many games you can borrow and play inside your room or another area in our elegant home.  Our rooms are all equipped with internet-enabled smart TV’s, and our music rooms is equipped with several musical options.    So, come experience the fun part of travel!

Coupled with our  naturally limited occupancy levels, enhanced sanitation procedures, modified breakfast options, and multiple entertainment selections, we hope you will consider the Ringling House Bed & Breakfast as a safe and comfortable lodging option!

Sincerely,

Julie Hearley & Stuart Koehler

Innkeepers, Ringling House Bed & Breakfast.

Murder Mystery Dinners

Have you ever participated in a murder mystery dinner?   There are several different kinds.   One has actors that play the parts, and audience members can help solve the mystery.  Mostly just a watching a show kind of Murder Mystery!

The type of Murder Mystery Dinners that we hold at the Ringling House Bed & Breakfast, are the kind where YOU get to play the part, dress up, and attempt to solve the murder while having an elegant diner and mingling around the Ringling House Bed & Breakfast.   Of course, you could be the MURDERED, or the MURDERER.   You just won’t know until you get here.   And wouldn’t you like to mingle about in the mansion, and try to solve the crime?  Click the link to one of these events and get your ticket now!

We have two of these murder mystery dinners coming up:
Jazz Age Jeopardy:  Saturday March 21, 2020  5pm
Casino Dead Money:    Saturday, April 25, 2020  5pm

Approximate Schedule of evening:

5:00pm arrival, pictures & cocktail hour
5:30pm Round 1 of Game is started
6:15pm dinner is served Round 2 Starts
**** Murder Happens ****
7:30pm vote & guess on suspects
8:00pm Round 3, confessions
8:30pm Awards & Prizes

Cost: $45.00 includes 1 free drink, dinner and a whole lot of fun with murder!

The “Carnival of Horrors” Haunted House Fundraiser

Halloween spirit alive at Ringling House Bed &Breakfast’s “Carnival of Horrors” haunted house.

What better way to scare up money for a great cause than to host a haunted house?
Stuart Koehler and Julie Hearley and a committee of volunteers are, for the second consecutive fall, creating a haunted house in a carriage house behind Ringling House Bed & Breakfast. Their goal isn’t to conjure Ringling family ghosts, but to raise money for improvements to the historic property.
Last year a nonprofit organization, Friends of the Charles and Henry Ringling Estate, was formed to preserve the buildings and grounds once owned by the brothers of circus fame. The one-acre estate includes the main house, which the couple operates as a six-room bed-and-breakfast; the carriage house; a cottage; and a barn. The 1901 Colonial Revival home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We think – we hope – the community wants this property to stay intact,” Stuart said.
Julie said the nonprofit will remain in place even if the property changes hands someday. “This is designed to protect these buildings as long as they’re around,” she said.
The couple plans to transform the carriage house in an event venue. They foresee hosting theatrical performances and other events attracting groups of 100 to 200 people. “There aren’t a lot of places in Baraboo for those kinds of events,” Stuart said.
Money generated through the Carnival of Horrors haunted house will support that project. Setup work began last month, with the team adding to the maze of horrors it set up last year. Julie said the team needs volunteers to help set up the haunted house and operate it. A crew of 15 is needed to sell tickets, provide security and act as ghouls within the indoor-outdoor haunted house.
Also needed this year are sponsors. The Friends of the Charles and Henry Ringling Estate group is offering sponsorships ranging in cost from $40 to $1,000 in exchange for tickets and prominently displayed gravestones bearing donors’ names. Donors will be invited to a VIP event at Ringling House, featuring personalities from the “Bordello of Horror” television show. Rachel Frank will offer demonstrations of horror-themed makeup and fashion. To volunteer or secure a sponsorship, send email to ringlingfriends@gmail.com.
The VIP event isn’t the only new feature this year. The haunted house is adding matinees for kids, who figure not to get as frightened in the daylight. Carnival of Horrors will be open Fridays and Saturdays starting October 11 from 7-10 p.m. During the final week of October, it will be open Thursday through Sunday, featuring $5 matinees for kids that Friday and Sunday from 2-4 p.m. (Otherwise, the haunted house isn’t recommended for youths under 10). Admission will cost $15 at the door, but tickets can be had in advance for $10 at https://ringlinghousebnb.com/event/, at the Al. Ringling Theatre and at Con Amici Wine Bar,  starting Friday, September 27th.
Last year the haunted house attracted 700 people. This year’s goal is 1,000. Halloween fans came from across the state last year. “That’s a lot of people who probably wouldn’t have come to town otherwise,” Stuart said.

Hop Growing in Sauk County

Did you know that Wisconsin’s proud brewing traditions were at one time centered here in Sauk County Wisconsin?

The conditions of soil and climate were found to be well adapted to the growing and curing of an excellent quality of hops, and Sauk County soon was among the leading counties of the West in acreage and production.

Hop Farm in Sauk Co

Hop farm in Sauk County

Pioneers in the industry had demonstrated that hops could be raised at a profit, and when prices suddenly went up, there was a rush into the business In 1866 and 1867, more than sixty per cent of the farmers in the townships of Greenfield, Baraboo, Fairfield, Delton, Dellona, Reedsburg, and Winfield had hop yards, while other townships in the county were extensively engaged in the industry. Many who owned no land rented from two to ten acres, and started to make a fortune.

The sale of hop roots became an important addition to the hop raiser’s revenue, as seed roots were very much in demand.

Competition in buying was intense, and buyers drove through the county bidding on the hop holdings of farmers. When a man had “sold his hops” he was viewed as ready to pay the bills that for months had been accumulating, unpaid.  

Few farmers were really enriched by the cultivation of hops, but, hops made it possible to erect buildings for hop-houses, and, though not well suited to other uses, such as stables or granaries, some still stand as reminders of the days when hop farmers were rich, or thought themselves so.

Disaster came almost as immediately as the craze started. In 1868, when, partly from over production, and partly from destruction of the hops by insects, prices fell markedly. Some were able to sell their crops for what they could get, but many growers held out, hoping for better prices next year. By then, the bottom dropped completely out of the market. 

Hops

Harvested Hops

The “hop-crash” brought widespread disaster. Even the women, who had picked the majority of the hops, were not paid for their hard, back-breaking services. Merchants, blacksmiths, carpenters, doctors, and even lawyers, had charges upon their books that they could not collect. 

 

Due to the honesty, industry, and thrift of the Sauk County farmers of the time, within ten or fifteen years, the “hop-crash” was almost completely overcome, and exists today only in the memory of the older inhabitants of Sauk County.

Taken from “The Hop Days in Sauk County”
By Hon. John M. True
January 25, 1908

Most Famous Ringling Performers Ever?

Most Famous Ringling Performers Ever?

Undoubtedly two of the most famous — and most tragic — circus aerialists, were Lillian Leitzel (1892 – 1931) and Alfredo Codona (1893 – 1937).  One of the rooms at the Ringling House Bed & Breakfast is even named after the couple.

Lillian Lietzel

Lillian Lietzel

 

Leitzel, one of the early stars of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus in the 1920s, was best known for a feat called the one-arm plange, or swing-over, in which she would perform a nearly vertical rotation while hanging from a ring by only one arm.

Leitzel grew up amid a well-knownEuropean circus family. Her mother and two aunts travelled throughout Europe with their trapeze act known as the Leamy Ladies; and her uncle, Adolph Pelikan, was a popular circus clown.

 

The Leamy Ladies performed on both sides of the Atlantic, but upon their return to Europe in 1911, Leitzel decided to stay behind. In 1914, Leitzel joined the Ringling Bros. Circus and, within five years, became the undisputed star. While swinging high over their heads, the audience would keep count of her rotations. Her record was 249 revolutions, an incredible feat, considering that each time Leitzel would complete a swing-over, her shoulder became partially dislocated, then snapped back into place.

When not performing, Leitzel had a reputation as a prima donna, unpredictable and demanding, and, was the first circus performer provided her own private Pullman rail car, complete with baby grand piano

Alfredo Cordona

Alfredo Cordona

 

In 1917, the Flying Codonas also joined the Ringling Bros. Circus, where Leitzel was already a star. Alfredo Codona also came from a circus family. His father, Eduardo, owned and operated a small circus in southern Mexico, and several family members performed as aerialists. When Alfredo’s father retired, the Flying Codonas changed their name to the Three Codonas, including Alfredo, Lalo, and their sister, Victoria. Later, when Victoria quit the act, she was replaced by Vera Bruce.

In 1928, Leitzel married Alfredo Codona of the Flying Codonas, a stylish and graceful performer known for his daring triple somersault.

The Three Codonas appeared in a short film titled “Swing High” (1931), which was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Short Subject. Alfredo Codona also performed most of the aerial stunts for the early “Tarzan” films starring Johnny Weissmuller in the early 1930s.

Leitzel and Codona shared similar temperaments, and their tumultuous marriage featured numerous arguments, public shouting matches, breakups and reconciliations. In addition to their combustible personalities, both craved the spotlight and attention they received, and often scheduled performances during their winter breaks from the circus. During one of these performances in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1931, one of the brass connections on Leitzel’s rope broke, and she fell 45 feet onto a concrete floor, suffering severe injuries.

Codona rushed to Copenhagen, but Leitzel insisted that her injuries weren’t serious, so Codona returned to Berlin to finish his engagement.

Two days later, only a few hours after Codona left her side, Lietzel died.

Codona was devastated by Leitzel’s death.

Desperate to find comfort after his loss, Codona married Vera Bruce in September 1932. Alfredo continued to perform his trapeze act, but became increasingly reckless, and was seriously injured in a fall in 1933, ending his career.

Vera Bruce filed for divorce in 1937. While in Bruce’s attorney’s office discussing the divorce proceedings, Codona asked to speak to his wife in private. After the attorney left the room, Codona locked the door, pulled a pistol from his coat pocket, and shot his wife four times, then shot himself once in the head. Codona died instantly, and Bruce died the next day.

So, ends the sad story of Lillian Leitzel and Alfredo Codona ….

Edited from http://www.cemeteryguide.com/codonaleitzel.html

Baraboo Cocoa Crawl 2019

Third Annual Cocoa Crawl 2019

Purchase your $2 tickets to Delectable Drinks and Family Fun!
This is a BRING YOUR OWN MUG EVENT! Or you can purchase a souvenir unbreakable cocoa mug at Becka Kates for $7.95.

Join us at the second annual Baraboo Cocoa Crawl on Saturday, January 26th, 2019 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm! Sample delicious and unique flavors of hot chocolate & other treats at two dozen area businesses – stops will offer hot chocolate OR another sweet treat such as a cookie AND a salty snacks and water to help your palate survive!

$2.00 Admission
Tickets are available for purchase at Bekah Kate’s (Kitchen, Kids and Home) at 117 3rd Street in Downtown Baraboo, and online at https://ringlinghousebnb.com/event/baraboo-cocoa-crawl-2019

On January 25 or January 26, bring your online receipt or ticket to Bekah Kate’s to exchange it for your cocoa stop punch card (required at each stop) and map. Turn your punch card in at the last stop for a chance to win one of two gift baskets, valued at over $100 each, containing items from participating business. A total of 400 tickets are being sold so buy now! 

Stops to be announced shortly!

Sponsored by Downtown Baraboo, Inc., Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce, Ringling House Bed & Breakfast, Bekah Kate’s, ReMax Grand and Gem City Creations.

Friends of the Charles & Henry Ringling Estate

Henry Ringling

Henry Ringling

CharlesHatimages

Charles Ringling

The Friends of the Charles & Henry Ringling Estate, is a nonprofit group established to improve and protect the Ringling estate off Eighth Street in Baraboo.   The estate that sits on the corner 8th and Ash St. is the only home built and lived in  by two separate Ringling Brothers of circus fame.   The one-acre estate includes the main house, which operates as a bed-and-breakfast; the carriage house; a cottage; and a barn.

The first fund raiser for the non-profit called “Phantom Carnival” is being set up in a carriage house behind the bed-and-breakfast, and will expand to cover part of the lawn out back. Where once circus impresarios’ horses whinnied, this fall visitors will shriek.

The non-profit hopes to run the haunted house for two years, then convert the carriage house into an event center. This will require replacing the 1901 building’s original wiring, and adding bathrooms and a kitchen.

The Ringling home and surrounding property was owned by the circus family for a century before Koehler and Hearley bought it in 2015 and opened their bed-and-breakfast. The Colonial Revival home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Koehler and Hearley have become active participants in local affairs, helping to launch events such as the downtown Cocoa Crawl and First Night celebration. Their short-term goal in hosting a haunted house for young adults is to create an entertaining Halloween event: Their long-term goal is to create a place for all types of community events.

 

Gas Lighting in the Victorian Age

Gas-or Electric-or Both?  How homes were “lit” in the Victorian Age.

When weGas Lighting give tours of the Charles Ringling Home on 8th and Ash streets in Baraboo, we always like to point out the modern conveniences that were incorporated into Charles’ (and later Henry’s) state of the art home. This home had most, if not all of the features we now take for granted in the 21st century. Even though the home had indoor plumbing, indoor heating, electricity, an intercom system, a fire suppression system and an elevator, I’d like to focus on an earlier type of illumination that was built into the Ringling home—gas lighting.

When commercial gas became available in the early 19th century, a new way of lighting was available for the first time. Although municipal water and sewer service was also available at the time, it took many years to implement, and often residential and commercial gas service was available first.

The gas that was used to light spaces during the Gaslight era was coal gas. It was similar to natural gas, and was manufactured by heating coal in an oven that was sealed to keep oxygen out. The gas was purified, filtered and pressurized which was then piped to homes, businesses and even street lights!

In the late 19th and early 20th century, electricity gradually replaced gas as the source of lighting, and a period of dual-fuel (gas and electric) fixtures were developed over a period of about 20 years as part of the transition.

What were the requirements for installation of these unique hybrid fixtures?

Well, the most important one was that the actual lighted bowl had to be kept a safe distance away from any materials that it might ignite. The second reason was that the gas to the fixture was turned on and off with a valve, or valves, that were built into it. Because the flame had to be lit after the gas was turned on, the fixture had to be easy to reach — either from the floor or with the use of a small step-stool.  

The way you can tell the real from the fake, if you see any of these fixtures in a Victorian era home, will be as hanging fixtures or wall sconces. They will have open bowls, usually made of glass and hold the lighted mantle and a light bulb in separate holders. The open bowl was needed to allow the products of the combustion to escape and also directed most of the light upward.

We actually have one of these dual-fuel fixtures in the library of the Ringling Home that has survived and is hanging in its original location!

Next time you are in the area, please check our tour times, or better yet, reserve a room at this historic home! A full house tour is included with all reservations.

 

Source material from “The Spruce” by Bill Lewis, 02/15/2017

https://www.thespruce.com/the-gaslight-era-2175011

The Houses that George Built—an Isenberg Retrospect

A few years ago, Margie Isenberg Abel stopped in Baraboo on a trip through Wisconsin, and that trip piqued her interest about her family’s links to Sauk County history. She knew of local kin Jim Isenberg (who is a second cousin), and wanted to learn more. With help from author Jerry Apps, a local Ringling historian, Abel contacted relatives of George Isenberg in Germany. She learned that three of seven Isenberg brothers left the family carpentry business to come to America. Two of the brothers, George and Carl, started Isenberg Brothers in Sauk City before moving to Baraboo. Here they built several landmark structures that, despite being built more than a century ago, remain vibrant institutions.

Early Ringling House 1901

Then about 2 years ago, The Isenberg great-granddaughters returned for a week to Baraboo, intent on researching the indelible imprint the Isenberg buildings left on Baraboo. They came from Kansas and New Hampshire to see the Baraboo Library, the Al. Ringling Mansion, St. John’s Lutheran Church, the Ringling House Bed & Breakfast and the Van Orden Mansion – all built by their Isenberg ancestors.

“They weCarlIsenbergre unbelievable mansions for that time,” said Margie Isenberg Abel, the chief family researcher.

They compared notes with Executive Director Paul Wolter of the Sauk County Historical Society, about the construction company run by their great-grandfather and his brother George.

“They were, bar none, the premier builders of Sauk County,” Wolter said.

 

There were seven sons and three daughters in the Isenberg family. George, being the youngest son, was educated in Germany, and as a youth was apprenticed to the trade of carpenter. In 1885, he immigrated to the United States, and once arriving in Sauk County, he eventually took up residence in Baraboo, where he lived without interruption-although in the interest of his business affairs, he resided for short periods at other places. For three or four years he was employed as a carpenter by his brother Karl, with whom he eventually formed a partnership, and the firm of Isenberg Brothers grew to be one of the leading contracting and building concerns in this part of the state. During this time the brothers erected many of the largest buildings in Baraboo, including all the Ringling buildings, and in 1912 George Isenberg went to Florida, where he erected the winter home for Charles and Edith Ringling.

IsenbergDecendants

 

Margie Isenberg Abel of Kansas, Ann Isenberg of New Hampshire and Carol Isenberg Dillon of Kansas, sitting on the stirs of the Van Orden Mansion, one the homes constructed by Carl and George Isenberg.

 

 

 

Thanks to Ben Bromley of the Baraboo news Republic and the Archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society for Information in the preparation of this piece.

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